Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

Bush's Bridge Too Far

The epic social security battle of 2005 will boil down to two questions: which side will do a more effective job getting its message out to voters, and which party can enforce the tighter discipline in Congress. Seemingly, the circumstances favor the Republicans, who have the bully pulpit of the White House, almost infinite financial resources from corporate and ideological allies, and majorities in both chambers. But Social Security privatization is such a fiscal stretch that any of the several ways of bringing it about must alienate one Republican faction or another. It remains to be seen whether the Bush White House can bridge these schisms. Among Democrats, there is strong party unity in the House. The biggest risk is the defection of several wavering centrist senators. These legislators view themselves as nontraditional, post–New Deal Democrats, practical problem solvers, and good bipartisans. The short list includes Senators Tom Carper, Kent Conrad, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman,...

The Myth of Partisan Gridlock

George W. Bush is looking for some Democrats to give him what he candidly calls "cover" for his plan to privatize Social Security. Democrats are resisting. Is this another deplorable case of partisan gridlock? Hardly. In the standard fable about partisanship, the American electorate is mostly middle-of-the-road. The voters want the parties to work together to solve national problems. But both parties have become captured by extremists. The voters are certainly sick of partisan wrangling. But everything else about this fable is wrong. Consider who is thwarting bipartisan solutions. The big threat facing the economy is the deficit. Bush has rammed through one tax cut after another, ballooning the national debt to dangerous levels. No bipartisanship here. Bush, narrowly elected both times, is determined to pack the federal judiciary with hard-right judges. One editorial writer after another has urged him to appoint moderates. Nothing doing. On Social Security, Bush appointed a commission...

Bush's Bridge Too Far

The epic Social Security battle of 2005 will boil down to two questions: which side will do a more effective job getting its message out to voters, and which party can enforce the tighter discipline in Congress. Seemingly, the circumstances favor the Republicans, who have the bully pulpit of the White House, almost infinite financial resources from corporate and ideological allies, and majorities in both chambers. But Social Security privatization is such a fiscal stretch that any of the several ways of bringing it about must alienate one Republican faction or another. It remains to be seen whether the Bush White House can bridge these schisms. Among Democrats, there is strong party unity in the House. The biggest risk is the defection of several wavering centrist senators. These legislators view themselves as nontraditional, post–New Deal Democrats, practical problem solvers, and good bipartisans. The short list includes Senators Tom Carper, Kent Conrad, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman,...

A Worldly Economist

An ode to Robert L. Heilbroner, who died on January 4.

Robert L. Heilbroner, who died January 4 at the age of 85, was one of a dwindling generation of professional economists who had broad humanistic curiosity and progressive values, and who wrote graceful prose for a large audience. Heilbroner was first and foremost a student of the history of economic thought. His masterwork, The Worldly Philosophers , written in 1953, was once required reading in introductory economics courses. His characterization of the great political economists was perfect: They were moral philosophers with empirical curiosity -- worldly philosophers Heilbroner was not just their chronicler. He was one of them. His great lifelong project, with Smith, Mill, Marx, and Keynes, was to get his mind around the capitalist system and to figure out how the thing worked. His other truly great book was a short work written in 1985, The Nature and Logic of Capitalism . Like Marx, with whom he had an intellectual love-hate relationship, Heilbroner understood capitalism as a...

Good Hearts

The U.S. government ranks near the bottom of tsunami aid givers when national income is measured against assistance. So President Bush, in line with his general view of privatization as panacea, is enlisting private charity to fill the gap. A parade of corporations has lined up to reap some easy publicity. Citigroup, with profits of $17.85 billion in 2003, will donate $3 million, or an infinitesimal proportion of its profits. The same Citigroup got $4.6 billion in tax breaks in 2001-03. That's billion . The $350 million pledged by the Bush administration, some of which will be diverted from other relief needs, represents 0.003 percent of our national income. Europe, on average, is spending about triple that. "The greatest source of America's generosity is not our government," the president intoned as he drafted Bill Clinton and his own dad to pass the tin cup. "It's the good heart of the American people." Herewith, a different view: The good heart of the American people can be...

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